20. Reframing Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, so you can solve it

Jan 17, 2023

This podcast is beaming to you from The SOLA System


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Labels can be helpful.
To help you name an experience.
To have a way to refer to where you are at.
And accept that this is where you are at.

 But they can also become your identity, locate a problem entirely in your body, and making it seem like this is just who you are.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, is one of those labels where it's both.

It's helpful to name when you experience excruciating, all-encompassing and sometimes even physical pain in response to instances where you aren't given love, acceptance, approval and inclusion.

But we also have to name the -isms (ableism, racism, behaviourism, gender-based prejudice...) that contributed to this heightened vigilance, and the ways these can be internalised as: your entire self is coupled-in-with the rejection.


In this week's podcast episode, I take the RSD phrase, that originated in the clinical context, and reframe it from a coaching perspective; as one that you can heal and transform your experience of rejection.

So that rejection doesn't come with an internal rejection of your whole self (the much bigger pain involved in RSD).

RSD is really: self-abandonment as a response to rejection.

The external triggering of internal self-rejection.

That's good news, because it means you can work on it.



Hello, sibling, how are you? I hope the start of the year has been good for you. It's been good for me, the end of 2022 felt like a bit of a crash, crashing burn, not burn out, but screeching to a halt and wanting to change the way that I structure my week, my working week. And so I've been trying that out the last couple of weeks. And I'm loving it. It's working, it feels calm, and I'm really enjoying it. So at some point, I'll talk about that. Anyway, before we get into the today to the day today, please consider if this podcast is helping you if you're getting anything from it, leave a review, I would really appreciate if you could open your phone, go to iTunes or Spotify wherever you listen, and just let people know why they should listen what you're getting from it, I would really appreciate that, thank you. And then today is all about a bit of a sticky, icky subject that I have some opinions about. And it's rejection sensitive dysphoria, or RSD for short, it's a phrase that you may or may not be familiar with. For those that aren't just have a listen, it's not really about the phrase because I want to reframe it. And for those of you that are familiar, I'm hoping also that this reframing is going to give you some hope for how you can not experience the dysphoria of this level of sensitivity to rejection. That refers to so this is a phrase that it was coined by Dr. William W. Dobson, who's a psychiatrist who specialises in ADHD, he came up with it in 2017. So it's really new, but it's it has, I think, caught on in the culture, especially around ADHD, but also for those in my community who aren't ADHD, don't recognise themselves in that but are autistic, or otherwise neurodivergent. This also rings a bell with a lot of people. And it comes out of a clinical context, right. So presumably, he was observing certain patterns and experiences that his people with ADHD had. And he wanted to name it and have a way to refer to it. And, in fact, let me just disclaimer. So even though it's not a mental health, diagnosis, or category, it does come from that clinical context. And so before we get in today, I just want to state very clearly, that if what when I'm describing and going through this episode, if any of these experiences are for you, accompanied by clinical depression, any kind of self harm any kind of suicidal ideation, I want to very explicitly just tell you to go and get professional help, right? This podcast doesn't in any way constitute any form of mental health advice. I'm not a therapist, I'm not a counsellor. I'm not trained in those professions in any way. So I don't want you to take anything that I offer in this episode, as anything that's in that direction, right? And if that is the case for you, if you do experience those things, then possibly this episode is not for you. Okay, so an A so this episode is not is only for those of you there are mentally well that are functioning in your life. And this is not to stigmatise mental illness, right? This is because the framing the reframing of this I'm going to offer is coming from a coaching perspective, not a mental health perspective. Okay. So disclaimer over. Let's get into it. So rejection sensitive dysphoria, or sensitivity is for I can't remember which one, you know, I mean, our SD is it's essentially it's it is referring to a heightened, intense, almost extreme levels of sensitivity to any form of rejection, criticism. People not approving having a negative opinion to the level that there is dysphoric. Right, that feels very bad. And for some, for some people, it's it feels bad to the extent that they experience physical pain, it feels like a physical pain. So it's a very strong reaction to people rejecting or criticising you or being excluded. And it can be part of your experience of being with other people being in the workplace relationships anywhere where there's any possibility of any kind of rejection, right? Because it starts to be something that you then get very vigilant around, around people. So I want to give you a coaching perspective, because it comes up or the things that it refers to the experiences that it kind of covers come up a lot. And there are variations of it, and it and it comes up in different ways. But I would say this is a big barrier to being yourself. So if you can unwind it, then so much inner freedom opens up when you do. And it's my position that you can unwind it. So this is not a life sentence. This is not like something that you have to always live with, it is possible to move into a different relationship with with rejection, and to not experience it so painfully. That doesn't mean that it's never, that you can get rid of the pain of rejection. But I'm going to get into it. So the things that I want to also acknowledge, before we get into this is it's a label, and labelling things can be this my position, it can be really useful, right? It can be really helpful. It can be really powerful to just name something to name an experience to say, this is a thing that happens, not just to me that this is something that I'm experiencing. And it can allow you to just be where you're at, and to accept your actual experiences. And being where you're at is a necessary component, right of moving on from those kinds of experiences that you don't feel good, right? So sometimes labelling is really helpful. However, sometimes it individualises The problem, right? It puts it in your body, it makes it about you, it can also sometimes be something that you take into your identity. So it can feel like it's just a facet of your being or it's your reality forever. And so I just want to call on I acknowledge a couple of things before we dive in, which are more about the context, right, that are more about the societal and social context. So that you know, that we stated explicitly, that if this is part of your experience, that it's not your fault. And that it's not something that I'll because you have ADHD or you're autistic or anything like this, that it's therefore just something about you. Okay, so let's just acknowledge a couple of things. And I want to start with ableism the biggest sweeping value system and way of thinking that is in the fabric of the culture, right, that is in the fabric of our structures, and which puts bodies into a value system into a hierarchy, to a way of thinking about bodies according to

that some are better than or more worthy of love, acceptance, health, belonging, inclusion, and so on. And some are less worthy of those things. And according to ability, or body shape, or look or ways of doing things, ways of expressing cultural heritage, all the things, right, it's the it's almost the, the is this ableism is connected to all the other isms it shares the same roots. And so yeah, it's ableism. But it's all the isms, right? It's all of the ways in which bodies are placed into hierarchies. So, you may have many facets of you, that in which you experience people projecting onto those ideas that you somehow are less than you may also, as someone listening to this podcast, have the layer of also that you think differently. And so your way of thinking of processing of being in your body of making sense, is under resourced in terms of the tools available for the ways that you do all of those things, right. So the ways that knowledge and information and how to make sense of and process your experiences the way you need to do them, including sensory sensations, but also emotions, right? So the tools that you have just widely available, there will be less of them. There, they are under resourced, under developed under, they're less visible, they're less regarded with value the Yeah, so there's that. And then there's also we move through a lot of social structures like schoolwork, training, all of the things that are a structure involving time, where perhaps growing up that structure didn't acknowledge or allow for the ways that maybe you process more experience in any given moment. I've talked about that before on the podcast. And I think it was sensory congruency is that episode, and so you're processing more, but you're also organising that extra perception, perception or information differently. My hunch is that sometimes that means that you process it takes longer to process experiences, or there's like so many more distinctions in your perception that need organising that need updating. And so they're the there are this kind of extra neural connectivity, it just takes longer. And sometimes it means that things are harder to process if they aren't organised or structured in a way that makes natural sense to you, that caters for the majority, but not for you. So just wanted to give a nod to all of those things, because when we're talking about rejection, what we're talking about is emotional processing, right? And is being with other people in social situations. So all of this comes into it. And so yeah, you might have also grown up with not having the time and space to process the way that you need to and, or that, that being late or giving you that time would have represented something unwanted for your caregivers. And so it's like your way of processing is at odds. And so maybe the tools for emotional regulation, the tools for knowing how to deal with rejection, what it means, why you're being rejected, and so on. Maybe weren't available, and then add in behaviourism, as an approach to Yeah, bringing people up that is about, it's like the Pavlov's dog philosophy, right? It's like, punishment and reward for certain behaviours, as a way of managing children. And so even though there's so much less of it now, and in fact, my kids are being given tools in school, and this is like, they're under 10. Right. So they already been given tools, for emotional regulation, for processing for knowing what to do when they're upset, or someone's hurt their feelings, their feelings. So they're being given all of these tools by the school, and a lot of them are somatic, or breathwork, or things like that. It's amazing. Whoever you listening to this, may have not been given any of that. And you may have also been parented by people who came from that lineage of punishment and reward parenting, or for whom you're displaying of emotions or distress or sensory overwhelm, may have been a problem. And so you've learned to fear having strong negative emotions, instead of being taught how to move through them and regulate them. So those are the things that I just wanted to nod to and acknowledge and then there's probably loads more there. There's obviously like workplace implications of rejection. There's like money Aerial and physical safety, there's racism if you're experiencing exclusion, rejection and prejudice as a regular thing, because you are a body that doesn't fit the value system of the context that you're in, then, of course, you're gonna be vigilant and hyper aware of and hyper sensitive to the possibility of rejection. So it's no wonder, right, it's no wonder that you might be highly attuned to the possibility of rejection and that your brain is seeking ways to avoid it and prevent it. And so, there may have been many instances growing up where you expressing or having an emotion or a strong sensation, coupled with the meaning that your parents came or your your guidance or caregivers responded to that with imparted the meaning that you having a strong emotion was something to fear. But also, they may have responded to someone rejecting you in ways that give it more power. Right that sometimes, like imagine there's two kids in playground one cause the other one a mean word, but doesn't know it's mean. And it doesn't have that meaning for them. It didn't intend it that way. But an adult in earshot swoops in makes them wrong for it, rejects them for calling the name, and then swoops into the top, the child that got called the name, and imparts the meaning that they need to be protected, that the words have an impact and a decree over who they are. And try and make the tears go away straight away. Right. So there may have been instances like that just to kind of give a story in an example. And I'm saying all of this stuff, because here's how I want to reframe rejection sensitive dysphoria, as self abandonment, that happens in response to rejection. And that that self abandonment is the thing that you really fear. So it's that you're experiencing rejection, as an external cause of internal self abandonment. And that self abandonment, that disconnecting from your own emotions. And making that rejection means something about your whole self, is the thing that's way more painful than actual rejection. Which is not to say that rejection isn't painful. But that you're when you're exiling your whole self, and throwing yourself out with it. It's, it's so much more painful, right? It's so much more a cause of fear. And when you're rejecting yourself as a response to someone rejecting you, it's no wonder that sometimes it causes physical pain, right? My shoulders, I used to get really sharp, like intense, sharp digging pains in the top of my back, when my ego had got too big or too small. In other words, when I was thinking about myself in the eyes of someone else, as better than something or less than something.

So anyway, that's self abandonment, that disconnecting from your own emotions, the fear of negative emotions, that response, you're experiencing it, then as being in someone else's control based on what they do. And whether they reject you or accept you, right. So the possibility of your own self abandonment response suddenly becomes attached to how other people are around you. And this is what the brain is trying to protect you from, right. Because it's a response to how other people behave, what they do, what they are, thinking, how they act towards you. And it feels like it's in their control, but it creates these deeply self rejecting painful feelings in you. And it's that happening instead of actually processing just the rejection itself. So what you might then try to do, if your sense of self is in this way, attached to how other people treat you, right, is to try and gain back control so as not to experience that self abandonment again, you might try and work on what on the external, right, so people pleasing, trying to fit in with their meaning making, be good be perceived. Well Do not fail, do not do things wrong in their eyes. Right. So try not be rejected, and looking out for and being vigilant and hyper aware of any instance where you might be rejected. And so on top of that, you're making all this extra effort to fit in to not be rejected. And then sometimes the effort to not be rejected isn't always rewarded with acceptance, right? Sometimes you do all the things, you do the checklists, you fit in, you fulfil the brief, you can talk yourself to please them. And then it still doesn't work. So there is going to feel even more like it's out of your control, that's going to create intense frustration, it's going to create rage, anger. And so maybe then you have angry outbursts, annex externalise it, and it becomes this, this external response that you have, that maybe also creates even more shame or self admonishment. Or maybe you're someone who internalises it as more of an internal, deeply negative, painful relationship with yourself or idea of yourself. So So then you're becoming hyper aware of any instances where you might be rejected. And then you're even reading rejection, where there isn't any right the brain does this. It's like, if there's something to protect you from, it's going to focus on that. And it's even going to read it into things where it's not actually there, it's going to project into unknowns, right. So my friend didn't text me back, that must mean they don't like me, or partner comes home in a bad mood, and you start feeling guilty or bad. Like, it's your fault that you've done something wrong, when actually, they're just in a bad mood. So maybe you're responding as if there are all these kind of places of rejection. So this sucks, right? Because you're going about your life in this kind of rejection prevention mode, I need to be highly acceptable, I need to be perfect, I need to be beyond repute, I can't fail, I'm not going to try things that might be hard, or that I might fail out, I'm gonna give up quickly if it's not working. Because that failure feels like a kind of criticism, it's like I'm not good enough. Or I'm just not going to be around people, or I'm going to be in this very defensive mode around them. And, or maybe it's that you dissect and you do these post mortems on conversations, and you find all the things that you did wrong, so that you don't do them again. Or you're mean to yourself in your self talk is full of like admonishment, like I shouldn't have done that, or I'm an idiot, or I did that wrong. And then also, second guessing what other people's actions mean, right? So it's all this compensating, and you're trying to over deliver, and maybe even get burnt out by by all of the kind of compulsively helping or responding or being hyper aware of how they think and what they want you to do. And at the same time, resenting them for it, and then you're people pleasing. And then someone criticises you, or even if it's good criticism, like constructive, helpful feedback. It also feels negative. And it's because everything feels outside of your control. And it's really frustrating and rage inducing the world feels against you, you feel like you can't meet these high standards, and it just feels even more. And then maybe you're having these outbursts or you're or you're recoiling in hurt and pain. And people tell you, you're just being oversensitive. Right, so then there's this, like, other layer of shame. So it's layers and layers. And I want to first of all just acknowledge your reaction, the experience, the pain of it, is in line with the perception of what's happening, right? When someone rejects you, it's like, well, my whole self is being rejected. Because your self concept, your idea, and your thoughts of yourself are somehow tied up in how they see you. And you're using that as a way to not process the actual rejection and do that, but instead, abandoning yourself and making it their idea of you is the reality of who you are. So the response is real, right? The emotions it's, it's real, like this is hard. This is a horrible experience. But it's also a response to the perception of what's happening, right the perception of yourself So how you solve for this is in your own perception and thinking,

in the thinking that has your idea of self tied up in how other people see and respond to you. And it's you rejecting yourself, rejecting yourself. So making what they think or do mean something about you. And in that instance, disconnecting from self, which actually blocks the possibility of moving through and processing, just the hurt and pain of rejection itself, without you rejecting you along with it, which is far more painful. So the perspective I have from coaching is you can solve this, right, it's not something that you need to think of as this is just how it is, this is how my life is. And that it's part of who you are. So that pain is solvable, right can't solve the pain of actual rejection. But the pain of rejection isn't as bad as the pain of self rejection, it's the response of self abandonment, that is the thing that you're fearing and the thing that you're hyper vigilant around. So the solution is to not make what anyone says thinks or does mean anything about you. And I'll say that's easy. It's hard, especially if this is a learned response, and a nervous system, automated response, right. And the solution is also to then not abandon yourself, not disconnect from yourself in response to rejection. So that's the work. Sounds simple, don't make it mean anything about you. Don't abandon yourself as a response. If it is not easy, but it is the work right. And it is possible, the thoughts that you will have about what you've made it mean will be specific to you, they will be specific to the scenario, they will be specific to your history your past. So they're going to be nuanced for everyone. And in the particular instances where you're experiencing this. And it shows up differently for different people, I coach and in different ways. And this is why coaching is part of the solar system, right? Because it's about liberating your mind by showing you the meanings that your mind is creating, that we just believe, right? We just believe our thoughts, we move through the world reacting to our own thinking. And it's it sometimes requires us to see what we're thinking, see the meaning that we've created. And sometimes that meaning is just experienced as a feeling, right? Sometimes we have to go into the feeling to know what we've made it mean, to find the thought that's created it. So this is not about that, oh, I just need to like think positively. This is about opening up and looking at an unravelling the conclusions that you that you'd have made in that instance, that are probably conclusions that you've made a lot. And so they've created a kind of belief in you. And so when someone rejects you, it's like it triggers that belief. And it affirms that belief. But that belief isn't true. And that belief creates disconnect in you. And it leads you to abandon yourself, because your self and your truth. They feel good, right? So if you're having a thought about yourself, that doesn't feel good, it's because it's not true. So finding all of the beliefs or the ideas about yourself that you've internalised, from all the isms, from the structures, and the social systems that we're in, from the ways that you've been parented. But we don't need to deep dive all into your past, we can look at what is the specific thought in that specific circumstance? What's the meaning you you made, and we do it one at a time. And once you do it once or twice or a few times, it creates a new relationship, both with your own thoughts. And also with your own internal responses and your relationship with yourself that is starts to become aware that oh, this is optional. Right? My the way I'm thinking about this is optional. The way that I've been seeing myself doesn't have to be true. I don't have to respond as if I am this person. Right. So someone react rejecting you, it's triggering some idea that you have about yourself as if you are fundamentally rejectable. So that's where we do the work. And then the other area that we do the work It creates safety in your nervous system, to stay with yourself through feeling negative emotion. So, rejection, pain hurt, to realise that in your nervous system, it is safe to feel those things, the negative emotion is temporary. And to be able to hold yourself all the way through moving into and facing and allowing the feeling the sensation to move through your body, to identify it to identify the sensation, where is it? How does it feel? Is it warm? Is it cold? Is it heavy? If it had a colour, what would that be allowing yourself to go into it and process it fully. And be in the crescendo of it, and not disconnect from yourself in response, right, but instead, stay with yourself until it dissipates. And as it dissipates, that emotion leaves your gift, right? It gives you some insight, some wisdom, some clarity, of boundary, a truth, a new level of compassion, a new level of self acceptance, a new level of self connection, because I can withstand even that pain, I can go through even that, and still be with myself. So new level of safety, to feel the negative emotions to know it's nothing to fear. So those would be the ingredients. And all of this work means that you then get to let people be wrong about you. And that you're not taking in their perspective, as something that you need to defend or something you need to react to. Or something that even means anything about you. Right, you can let people have thoughts do things, knowing that it's a reflection of their models. When I'm saying models, I mean, their thinking their models of reality, their way that they make meaning how they experience truth and reality, right. And it doesn't have to mean anything about you, their thoughts up to them, your thoughts are up to you, their feelings belong to them, your feelings belong to you. And so your thoughts about yourself and your response, suddenly become your own. And you're not subject to unwanted responses and unwanted experiences in yourself relationship because of what someone else does. And that means that you don't have to worry about what other people are thinking, you don't have to be as vigilant around the possibility of rejection, not because it won't be painful, but because it won't have your whole self being rejected along with it. Right? It will just be Oh, that hurt. But it won't be I go along with it, I'm rejecting my whole self, I'm disconnecting from self.

So what opens up as a result of doing this work in your relationship with yourself, and therefore in your relationship with anyone and everyone else, with your day to day with the demands and expectations that are constantly coming at us right? In, it means that in your experience of that you feel stable and grounded, you are feeling in control, and you're not having to manage the disconnect, right? So and it also means that you're not having to try and manage how you're seen and try and get out of the possibility of rejection in all instances. So this means that you can take the kinds of risks that your deepest, most fervently held dreams might involve, right? Because if you fail, or someone thinks it's a bad idea, or people don't understand the choices you're making, it's not so much an issue, you know, you can handle it. And that in learning to fail and do all of those things. You also when you're not rejecting yourself, actually affirming and increasing the amount of self trust, the confidence, the the worthiness that you have to do the things that you want to do. So you become more okay with being wrong, getting it wrong, not being understood, failing. And it means that you get to move through the world in a completely different way. So there's inner freedom that opens up that's like a bandwidth If suddenly available in your nervous system, so consider how much it's worth to you to have that right to start doing the work to start working on yourself knowing it's possible. And that if anything you've experienced that resembles what is called rejection sensitive dysphoria, or anything I've described, that it doesn't have to be a life sentence, right doesn't have to be always this way. So I hope I've inspired you to dive into the work, start working on yourself, know that your future can look completely different. When you do this work, you start to get to actually find out who you are, when you aren't in that vigilance around, protecting yourself from your own self abandonment response to other people do. And I also just want to acknowledge that doing this work, it can feel scary, right? It can feel like I don't want to open up the cupboard of all the stuff. I don't want to look at Yahoo and Bing, what's not working and unravel it. And maybe you're worried and maybe you're scared. And I get it, right, I get it. I know it, it's not easy. I'm not here going to tell you that it's just simple and easy. But it is the thing that will create the bandwidth to do the things that you want right to start making outside change, to start making a life that really reflects and supports the inside you it means that you get your energy back, you get your spoons back, and that some of those coping mechanisms that you've had as a defence system, right, that got you here, right, we don't want to, we don't want to hate on that version of you. We want to love that version of you, right? kept you safe. Got You Here. Right, you survived. You're incredible. You did that you got here. But now that those ways of doing things are exhausting, right? It's exhausting, being that stressed and overworked just doing the day to day life. So when you do start to unpack the stuff that is being held in your nervous system that is in the bandwidth, and that is taking up a lot of your energy, right, then when you start clearing through it, you start to get energy back, you start to get your own thinking back, you start to find out who you are. And you start to be able to give to start to be able to create things that previously felt impossible. So you want things to change, it starts in you, it starts with you being good with you. And in the Solar System Plus siblings, we have all the ingredients to do that, right. It's the context, it's their community, it's the guidance, it's the space to unravel all of the ways that you can being and start re learning how you want to be next. And so it's this is about taking you out of hypothetical like one day in the future, and into a context where you can start that future now. Because you can experience being held, being seen being heard, being read accurately. And being coached through all of the unlearning and relearning of How to Be you. And then you have an experience of a social context where you can you can experience acceptance in your nervous system, right, which no amount of internet information or Podcasts can make up for. So you can move on from I'm not good enough and into. I'm enough, like that's a given. That's done. I know that already. There's nothing that is there's nothing that that's contingent on any more. And therefore, what do I want to do? And what am I going to do next? How am I going to rewrite my past based on how I'm going to shift things now. So if you are ready, if you're ready to no longer delay, and live by the excuses of like one day, if you're ready to invest in you, you being the pin that holds everything together, right? When you're good with you, you start being good with everything else, and to value your experience of your own life. And to start making those changes. Consider joining us click the link in the bio and in the top of this podcast. I would love to have you in the solar system and to do this work with you. Alright sibling, I hope this was helpful. Love you. Bye.